The Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park set up a participatory process to involve local residents in formulating the “Piano Pluriennale Economico e Sociale per la promozione delle attività compatibili" (Socio-Economic Multiyear Plan for the Promotion of Compatible Activities).
Problems and Purpose
The Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park involved local residents in the “Socio-Economic Multiyear Plan” in order to define in a participatory way the opportunities of socio-economic development and make such opportunities known to the different stakeholders.
Background History and Context
The “Socio-Economic Multiyear Plan for the Promotion of Compatible Activities” (SEMP) represents the instrument through which the Park Administration designs the conservation and the preservation of the naturalistic, historical, and cultural inheritance of the areas within the park itself. The Administration is interested in promoting human activities compatible with conservation goals while reversing the present emigration flux from the mountain areas towards urban areas. This Plan specifically provides financial support to private individuals or local authorities to set up purification and energy saving plants; naturalistic and touristic facilities; traditional, artisanal, rural and cultural activities; welfare service; libraries; restoration of cultural heritage; and any other initiative aimed at favouring the development of tourism and of the other connected activities.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
“PartecipAppennino” was promoted by the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park (its seat is in Sassalbo in the municipality of Fivizzano-MS) which embraces 14 municipalities. The park is located in an area with considerable natural, historic, and cultural value along the crest of the Apennine mountains between the Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna regions. The costs of the project amounted to €.49.000 euro (granted by the Participation Authority of Tuscany).
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Times and days for the meetings were chosen to accommodate people's requirements and to encourage participation. The meetings were advertised (in some occasions insufficiently) with bills, direct contacts, email, and phone calls and took place in informal settings with a high degree of adaptability (libraries, bars, restaurants, town halls, parishes, open spaces and even in private houses). Meetings were facilitated; park personnel was available to offer information to participants. Participants were private citizens, representatives of economic associations, and representatives of the local administrations.
Methods and Tools Used
In association with local governments, 27 meetings took place. At each, there were an expert and a meeting facilitator; the topics were economic (development activities and development areas) and social (depopulation of local villages and increased aging of the population). A report was drawn up for each meeting and then published on the website of the National Park. A web forum was also available.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The participatory process started February and finished on October 27th 2009. It was intended to clarify the targets to be pursued through the Multiyear Plan and to make the opportunities of socio-economic development clear to stakeholders. The project was composed of two main areas of activity. The first included:
- the establishment of a working group and the definition of a program;
- the analysis of local actors and definition of the procedures of the participatory process;
- recognition of projects underway and of previously carried out participatory processes; and
- an overview of available informative instruments: website and informative materials.
The second area of activity was about the implementation of a travelling Forum aimed at defining the SEMP of the Park through:
- meetings with groups of “local specific stakeholders” (farmers, tour operators) and discussion of different strategies and targets in a first outline of the Plan
- setting-up of the travelling Forum and meetings in the area
- evaluation of the contributions, discussion with the local Community, refinements and drafting of the final outline of the Plan
The arguments that emerged from facilitated discussions concerned economic (development of activities and areas) and social (depopulation of local villages and people ageing) issues. The attendance was sometimes limited because of the thinly populated areas.
In every meeting, participants were asked to choose which format they preferred, either a world café or an open plenary debate. In most cases, they chose the open plenary debate to discuss directly with the representatives of local institutions. A report was drawn up for each meeting, which was then published on the website of the Park to offer as many details as possible about the issues discussed. The publication of the reports also offered the chance to open a web forum, thus allowing contributions from individuals who could not take part in the meetings.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Local communities had the possibility to improve their knowledge of the Park and the opportunities it could offer in terms of sustainable development, while the Park itself was able to understand the different resources existing within its territory. It was a new way to approach the SEMP. At the end of every meeting, each participant was given an anonymous questionnaire in order to verify their degree of satisfaction regarding the process. The questionnaire was about the usefulness of the meetings, the preciseness of the information provided, the method used, the topics discussed, and so on. More than 300 questionnaires were filled out; responses were 90% positive.
The results of the participatory process were put into the fact-finding outline of SEMP and they influenced the targets and the choice of interventions. So the National Park can affirm that the Project “PartecipAppennino” achieved its objectives: stakeholders received information about opportunities of development offered by SEMP and they contributed to defining its contents. To set up a “Plan for the Socio-Economic Development of the Park” through a participatory process together with local communities was a rather complex process but it was surely innovative. The project demonstrates that even single citizens, supplied with necessary information, are able to take important decisions about collective matters.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The National Park conducted the participatory process pursued the greatest neutrality and impartiality in conducting the process; the ideas proposed by participants were faithfully. The process obtained the cooperation of local communities. There were some logistic difficulties, typical of the socio-economically marginal context in which it took place. In several occasions, meetings were quite conflictual, partly because participants had a poor knowledge of the subject, partly because of the opposition of sectors of the population to the limitations to private activities with the park imposed by legislation.
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Final Report [DEAD LINK]